Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Pressing Matter (A true christmas story...of sorts)

"Oh man...I really need to pee."

The words floated across my head like an ominous warning--a bell on the verge of a good toll--a pale horseman of some yuletide apocalypse. I was only seven, you see, and I still believed in Santa Clause. Being that it was Christmas Eve, and close to three o'clock in the morning, I found my young self in one of the most difficult predicaments of my childhood occupation. Allow me to explain.

This was 1989, and I was living in Germany with my mom and dad. I never had any brothers or sisters, but that is not really integral to this yarn. I was an imaginative child, and I vividly, and with voracious capacity, believed undisputedly in the existence of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, aliens, ghosts, Michael Jackson, Leprechauns, other worlds, David Bowie, and monsters under the bed and/or in the closet. Most of these pseudo mythical creatures are (like my lack of siblings) not important to this story. But it's important that you know that i believed with all my heart in all of them (and in some cases, still do). But this story is about Santa, St. Nick, Kris Kringle, whatever you wish to call him. It's also important that you know the following bit of information: As previously stated, I lived with my parents at this time; in a small apartment in a mostly American community in Bonn, Germany. The apartment was set up as such (bear with me, this is crucial): When you entered the front door, you entered immediately into the living room. On the other side of the living room, opposite the front door was another doorway which opened up into a hall that ran parallel to the living room. In the middle of this hallway was the bathroom. On one end of the hall was my bedroom, and on the other end was my parent's bedroom. That said, in order to use the bathroom, I WOULD HAVE TO PASS BY THE DOORWAY THAT OPENED UP INTO THE LIVING ROOM...where our Christmas tree stood. It is essential that you remember this information. Got all that? Good. Now, it is also essential that you remember this next bit: The previous Christmas, 1988, was our first Christmas in Bonn. I distinctly recall having woken up somewhere between the hours of midnight and one o'clock, only to hear the t.v. on. Curious, and troubled, I ventured out from my room to find my dad sitting on the living room couch watching football.

"Dad?" I asked. "Hadn't you better get on to bed? ...Santa's coming."

"Oh..." He chuckled, "I'm going in just a few minutes buddy. But you had better get on back to bed yourself, and don't come back out, you don't want to scare Santa away!"

Naturally, I took this advice to heart. My dad was a smart guy afterall; he knew what was up; and scaring Santa away obviously would mean a severe decrease in Christmas toy horde. And so I clambered back into bed and the next thing I knew it was Christmas morning and all was well and I was none the wiser.

Which takes us back to 3:00 A.M. on Christmas morning of 1989...and my excruciating need to relieve a very full bladder.

Something had to be done. That much was apparent. But to risk passing by the living room and scaring away Santa? An absolutely unacceptable option.

Lay there and wet the bed? Equally undesirable and unacceptable.

Allow my bladder to explode in a tepid and gooshy festivus of diabolical luke-warm urine and plasma? By far the least desirable of my options.

Slowly, ever so slowly, and with oh so much stealth, so as not to awaken my parents, or worse, scare away Santa, I crept down the ladder from my bunk bed...and left my stuffed animals behind like fallen soldiers on a battlefield. Closet monsters would be damned, I had more urgent and literally pressing issues to deal with.

Like a young ninja in the night I crept to the darkest, fartherst, most quietest corner of my bedroom, steadied myself, said a quick prayer...and peed, all over the carpeted floor.

Nobody ever found out. Not mom, not dad, not Santa Clause, not nobody. There is however, and amusing and ironic epilogue to this tale of my awkward youth.

Several months later I was forced to repeat this very act, so as not to scare off the Easter Bunny.

In the words of Dave Barry, "I swear i'm not making this up."


Merry Christmas

Stay tuned for twenty albums to take in a space ship. That really will be next week's blog. Srsly.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

20 favorite artists

For Christmas I received a note book full of lists. 146 lists, to be precise--all of them music related. They range in subject matter from "List your favorite music moments in film," to "List your summer road trip mix," to "List advice that you follow from lyrics." Each list is equipped with 20 blank spaces so that you can fill them in. The person that gave me this obviously both knows and loves me very well/much. My taste for nerdly music/movie lists has not gone unnoticed it would seem---and when I received this gift I admit I did a small jig in my living room clad only in a Johnny Cash t-shirt and Super Mario Brothers boxer shorts (no, really). Congratulations, that image is now tatooed forever on your brain. Read on, if you dare :)

My immediate thought post jig was, "I CAN DO 146 BLOG POSTS! AND RICK DICKINSON WILL STOP PESTERING ME!" (For the record though, Rick is a cool guy and we should never make fun of him..........ever). I've been wanting to start a blog for a long time but I couldn't decide what to write about. I didn't want it to be just random, whacky anecdotes from my daily musings (though i'm certain those will pop up from time to time); but something with more of a theme. This glorious gift has provided me with the perfect platform. Once a week I will post an excessivly geekly list of exquisite music related material for my fellow beloved nerds to peruse at their own pleasure and/or leisure.

The first list, naturally is, "List your top 20 favorite artists of time." And below, are mine.

1. Bob Dylan--my delight for Dylan matured over the years like a fine wine...or a European chocolate bar (not that that makes any sense...but whatever). Growing up I knew about the songs, "Knockin' on heavins door," "The Times they are a'changing," and "Blowin' in the wind." And I knew that Bob Dylan was, "That folk guy." But until I was 18 or 19 that's about all I knew. In December of 2000 I purchased "The Essential Bob Dylan" and the rest is history. I bought more of his albums and listened to them ad nauseum. I won't bore you with how brilliant I think he is (and he is, brilliant) but Dylan has been my top favorite artist for a straight ten years. I even (very dorkily) wrote my Senior English Thesis paper on Dylan, likening his lyrics to the works of the Romantic poets of the early 19th century (Namely Shelley, Byron, and Blake). He is a folk-hero, storyteller, poet, rock star, and legendary American troubador extraordinaire. He is my favorite artist of all time. And as a bonus he produced (with the help of a certain playboy model) Jakob Dylan; without who's 1990's band The Wallflowers, the soundtrack to my adolescence would've been incomplete. Hats off to you, Robert Zimmerman.

2. Bruce Springsteen (And the E Street Band)--Bruce is a very, very, very, VERY close second to Dylan. I've seen Springsteen in concert three times over the past five years and each performance has been better than the last. Bruce Springsteen is the quintessential American rock icon. He's a holy rolling preacher for the every man, equipped with a guitar, remarkable zeal, songs of poignant storytelling that depict hard times without being overly sentimental, and a power-house of an ass-kicking back-up band. I'm referring of course to Clarence Clemens, Steven "Silvio Dante" Van Zant and Max Weinberg. The rest of the E Street band is cool, but those three are Bruce's base. I've been listening to these guys for approximately 21 years; ever since I discovered a copy of "Born in the U.S.A" in my mom's shoebox of random cassettes. I listened to it. Then I listened to it again. And again. And again. I'm still listening to it today.

"We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school." Damn straight.

3. The Beatles--If I need to explain why the Beatles are on this list then....I....dude....we just can't be friends anymore. This is the only time I will be a music snob; I swear.

4. Tom Petty (And the Heartbreakers)--Unlike with Bruce, I did not realize that Tom Petty was some one I should be listening to until nearly high school. And then of course I was like, "oh...doy." I can listen to any of Tom's songs new or old (not to mention side project "Mudcrutch") and really never get bored. It is uplifting rock music to sooth the soul. Tom Petty's tunes have gotten me through more sad times than I care to remember. He is cooler than me or you; and his music is more chill than a bottle of fine champagne. Also, I can't listen to "American Girl" in the truck without immediately rolling down my windows, freaking out, and singing (largely off-key) with a big smile plastered across my face.

5. Creedence Clearwater Revival--The first time I heard "Have you ever seen the rain" I was 11 years old. I was sitting at the breakfast table eating a bowl of cold cereal feeling apprehensive about school and the song came on via the oldie's station my folks had tuned our speakers to. It was 1993 and I was the new kid in a class of sixth graders who had all grown up together. I was awkward, and miserable. And then I heard that song and suddenly felt just a little bit better. That's the power of music. Sixth grade was still a difficult year for me; but I cite CCR (and their collective works) with guiding me through a stressful time in my early adolescence. In the years between, my fondness for CCR has grown exponentially. I've learned how to play two of their songs on the guitar; and this past summer I finally got to see John Fogerty in concert. It was something of a pilgrimage.

6. Jimmy Buffett (And the Coral Reefer Band)--Jimmy Buffett is often unfairly targeted as, "That Cheeseburger Guy," or the "The get drunk and screw dude." This is tragic, really. Jimmy Buffett is a remarkable singer song writer (not to mention a gifted storyteller and novelist). One only has to look a little futher than his radio hits. For every "Why don't we get drunk and screw," there is a "He went to Paris." For every, "It's five o'clock somewhere" there is a "Take another Road." It's not for everyone, but the scope of Jimmy Buffett's music extends infinitely farther than frat boys and drunk southern chicks. One has only to listen.

7. The Grateful Dead--I'm not as into the Dead as I was when I was younger. I was REALLY into them in 11th, and 12th grade, and my first year of college. It was because of this, more than anything I think, that I was labled as "that hippie kid." I still enjoy them quite a lot though. Their music is delightful and i've seen them twice. Sans Jerry Garcia of course. At least one of their songs, "Ripple" has stood the test of time as one of my all time favorite songs.

8. Led Zeppelin--Classic kick ass rock band. A musical force of fury, beauty, black magic, and awesome drum solos. 'Nuff said.

9. The Red Hot Chili Peppers--A bunch of fun whacky rocking ass-hats with funk in their souls. :) I never grow tired of this band or their music. I remember hearing "Aeroplane" when I was in the 8th grade and thinking, "....whoa." Sadly, guitarist John Frusciante left the band last year and was replaced by Chili Peppers guitar tech josh klinghoffer (at least i THINK that's his name...i'm too lazy to look it up). A new album is due out this spring. Oh, also I may or may not have met Flea last summer at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts festival in Manchester, Tn. Another blog post about that, perhaps, later. ;)

10. The Smashing Pumpkins--My favorite band from the 1990's. In eighth grade I discovered "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness." I will always remember that record as the album that defined my early teenage years. I have been disappointed with Billy Corgan's work post Machina. But all albums prior, are remarkable. And Mellon Collie features another of my all time favorite songs ever. "Thirty Three."

11. Aerosmith--Oh Aerosmith...what oh what oh what do I say about my poor, poor Aerosmith? For a long time, they were my favorite band. All through high school. Everyday I would come home, walk my dog and listen to Aerosmith. I had every single one of their albums. Aerosmith was a damn fine classic American rock band. WAS. Their last studio album of original material was 2001's "Just Push Play." It had some good songs on it; but it had just as many "meh" songs. Their last studio album was 2004's blues album "Honkin' on Bobo." This was actually an exceptionally excellent piece of work--but it lacked original tunes. In recent interviews from the past year or so, it has become abundantly clear that Steven Tyler and Joe Perry's interests have begun to differ; with Perry wishing to go down a more bluesy/rocking/classic route and Tyler expressing a desire for more of a poppish sound. And of course, Steven Tyler is the new Judge for American Idol (along with Jennifer Lopez) which makes me feel...erm...stabby. This is a move that suggests Aerosmith as we know it, is done. All that said, they remain one of my all time favorite bands. I was in the car the other day and "Sweet Emotion" came on. Admittedly it is a song that I had not listened to in a very long time, and hearing it on the radio, I remembered why I liked it (them) so much. In their prime, they rocked; and then they rocked some more. I rolled down the windows and cranked the volume all the way up (all this occured in the Library Car, mind you...I was out doing errands for work). Sometimes songs have a way of taking you back; to places and people you haven't thought of in years. Aerosmith did that for me the other day. While they have unraveled in recent times; the Boys from Boston were once upon a time galactic rock n roll royalty. And I appreciate them, for all they've done (except of course for that super bowl half time show in 2001 but we shall never speak of that). I am sad, that they lost their way. But it is what it is. And we shall say no more. Below is a link to one of their older, lesser known songs. I challenge you to find ANYTHING wrong with it.

12. Pink Floyd--"Dark Side of the Moon" really does sink up with "Wizard of Oz." It's not a myth. Just hit play on the third rawr of the MGM lion. The record will play through two and a half times. And it works. And it's awesome. Their other albums are cool too I suppose :)

13. Weird Al Yankovic--Some people had childhoods reflective of Norman Rockwell. Some had childhoods reminiscient of Roseann. Mine was something like Family Ties meets Andy Griffith meets Weird Al Yankovic. I first remember hearing about Weird Al when I was six. A neighborhood kid was talking about "That Fat Song." It wasn't until a couple of years later though when we lived in Germany that Weird Al Yankovic became a force in my life. For reasons that remain unidentified my mom purchased a copy of Weird Al's first round of Greatest Hits. The cassette contained "Fat," "Lasagna," "Like a surgeon," "I'm addicted to Spuds," "Eat it," "Ricky," "Dare to be Stupid," and "One more Minute." At eight years old, I was enthralled. At 29 i'm still enthralled. I love the fact that not only is Weird Al Yankovic still making poignant and hilarious parodies of mainstreem artists but that he is still wildly popular and a bonified geek icon. And, he has been doing this, literally since right around the time I was born. Nerds of the world owe Weird Al so much.

14. The Beastie Boys--While I've always appreciated The Beastie Boys; it wasn't until the past couple of years that I REALLY began to fall in love with their work. The reason for this, is because I saw them when they headlined Bonnaroo a couple of years ago. I went into it thinking, "hey cool, The Beastie Boys...that should be a pretty sweet show." That would be putting it mildly. I've been to dozens and dozens and dozens of shows. I had never seen anything like the performance those rapping middle aged white boys put on--and I haven't seen anything since. It was life changing.

15. Jimi Hendrix--The third and final bonafied "Classic Rock" artist on this list (the priors being zeppelin and pink floyd), Hendrix is about as cool as it gets. His guitar styling was bluesy, and sexy, and it could whip your ass. Too bad the poor bastard killed himself.

16. Simon & Garfunkel--My love for Simon & Garfunkel goes back to childhood and can be blamed solely on my dad. Not that this is a bad thing though. While a lot of the music I loved as a kid (and largely still do) comes from cassette tapes that my mom had lying around (E.G. Springsteen, Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp), "The Best of Simon & Garfunkel" was one of dad's. I found it in the fifth grade, and it was in heavy rotation in my walkman along with the likes of M.C. Hammer, Alice Cooper, and Bryan Adams.....heh. It's hard to describe how I feel about these guys. I don't so much love them, and their music--as I revere it.

17. Michael Jackson--May he rest in peace

18. The White Stripes (or pretty much anything Jack White does)--Jack White is the savior of rock music. That is all.

19. Tom Waits--I've often thought of Tom Waits as a burlesque Bob Dylan. I was first exposed to Tom Waits not because of his music, but because he plays R.M. Renfield in Bram Stoker's Dracula which I saw for the first time in middle school. It wouldn't be until college though (hangs head low) that I realized he was also this magnificent, weird, poetic, and fucking COOL singer/songwriter. Below, you will find one of the most lyrically beautiful songs I believe i've ever come across.

20. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem--This should be a no brainer. I mean...COME ON. IT'S A MUPPET BAND. AND THEY WERE REALLY GOOD. Not only were they good but the particular muppets that comprised that band were indicative of George Clinton, Janice Joplin, Bob Dylan, and John Bonham. Below you will find not one but TWO links. Yes, I love them that much :)

Honorable Mentions: John Mellencamp, Tool, Beethoven, John Denver, & Cat Stevens.

Stay tuned for next weeks blog: Twenty albums you'd bring if you were leaving planet Earth on a space ship.

Smell ya later.